THIS IS A SPONSORED POST IN ASSOCIATION WITH
HEART OF LONDON BUSINESS ALLIANCE
Eros. All Londoners know about Eros. Not only was he the Greek god of sexual attraction, but his Roman counterpart was Cupid, and his beautiful winged statue stands in Piccadilly Circus.
Except it doesn’t. For the the statue that stands proudly at the southeastern side of the Circus, (moved after World War II from its original position in the centre), is of the Greek god Anteros, who is generally mistaken for his brother Eros*.
Anteros was the god of requited love, a charming romantic notion, and this year he can be seen flapping his wings in several models down a large part of Piccadilly itself, which for the very first ever time has its own Christmas lighting installation, festooned in twinkling lights from the Circus at the East towards the Ritz heading West.
Each year the beautiful lights that festoon much of central London are turned on in November providing a glorious focal point along the West End’s major thoroughfares. Until this year though I had never given a thought to how they actually get there.
So imagine my glee when I was asked if I would like to visit the factory of dreams aka James Glancy Design in south London, a creative agency who specialise in transforming retail and public spaces from the everyday to the extra special. They work on a massive scale, creating light works, installations, temporary sculptures and entire experiences from their huge warehouse, and I spent a very enjoyable morning there a few weeks ago as they started to approach completion of their many, many festive projects, including the bespoke inaugural Christmas lights for Piccadilly.
As we waited in their very sparkly boardroom for our tour, we got an advance peek at the designs for Piccadilly.
Piccadilly’s lights are made in London by Londoners for London; they are all handmade and everything is bespoke. And, of course, nothing is as simple as it appears.
The project starts with the design team who work to the client brief. They then work with the tech department to consider the viability of their ideas: To construct the lights one must take into account multiple factors, including the weight of the design, potential wind velocity, and luminosity – with so many competing light sources in the West End how do they make sure the lights really stand out?, along with considering the position of the fixing points for the lights on Piccadilly’s heritage buildings, many of which are listed and so require listed building consent. Then the project manager pulls it all together, and the electrical engineering and production metal working departments start to construct the design.
Installing the lights themselves takes three nights and involves closing Piccadilly; by this stage council and building permissions will have been applied for and the necessary road closures and diversions put in place.
After hearing all this, we headed downstairs to the warehouse to see the lights themselves under construction. We knew that there were to be five models of Antheros flying down Piccadilly, but nothing could have prepared us for what was waiting for us down below:
The Antheros figures are mounted between wings, all specially constructed in the workshops. They are extraordinarily large when seen close up, yet when seemingly floating down Piccadilly they don’t seem so big at all.
Then there are the ribbons of light running from each side of the figure.
On Thursday night last week I headed down to Piccadilly to see the lights in situ, sparkling their way down Piccadilly. Really, it’s only when you see them in situ that you can really appreciate their scale – the total span across for each set of lights is an impressive 16m, each figure is 2.5metres tall and each rig weighs a staggering 200kg.
*The real name of the sculpture is the The Angel of Christian Charity, with Anteros symbolising the selfless philanthropic love of the Victorian politician, philanthropist and social reformer the Earl of Shaftesbury for the poor. It forms part of the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain, erected in 1892–1893 and designed by Alfred Gilbert, to commemorate his philanthropic works.
Come December there will be a chance to get even further in to the Christmas spirit with the #XMASFIRSTS digital advent calendar. Across Heart of London’s London West End social media channels, followers will receive a daily dose of exciting #XMASFIRSTS stories from some of the best brands within the area and the chance to win some fabulous prizes. Keep an eye on Twitter @LondonWestEnd, Facebook London West End and Instagram @London.WestEnd during December to find out more and to be in for a chance of winning. (We’ll be covering the story on LLG too.)